(Enjoy the chapter, please, I know it's been forever, but I literally promise it won't happen again. I had finals. Happy holidays and reading!)
"Wellan," Dazaara choked.
She could not believe it—could not look away from him. He had aged just slightly, perhaps to match her own years. Gods, gods.
His smile. The one she had forgotten, the one she had promised to always cherish in her heart. The one replaced by his screams and haunted gaze and trembling fingers. Replaced by his rolling head, its muffled thump upon the wooden surface, the spurt of blood, the cheer of men.
Time stilled between them. Wind blew across his face, displacing a few strands of his brown hair from his forehead and his smile softened. "Hello Zar."
Dazaara fell to her knees, tears pearling at the rims of her eyes. Her face twisted into a quiet sob, her throat tightened and no words came from her mouth, except for those she knew to be true. "You died."
Wellan strode to her and knelt before her. She noticed them, then—the tears that seemed to swell behind his eyes, identical to her own. "I did."
Her tears fell, in silent agony and in grief, until all she could feel was weight of the universe implode within her. Gods, how she cried—like nothing mattered beyond them, beyond their presence in this very moment, beyond Wellan's warm body against hers and his wet tears upon her skin. He wept too, perhaps with the memory of his death, with the terror and anguish and regret. For years, she had prayed for one last chance to see him, to feel him, to smell him and remember all that they had shared. To gaze upon his smile once more, to hear his voice through the darkness that ripped her apart.
"Gods, I missed you. I missed you."
He pulled back and looked at her. "I know."
A moment of silence weighed between them, and it felt like nothing had changed throughout the years. Like he had not died, like she had not become a monster of nightmares. In this moment, they were just Wellan Lariverise and Dazaara Aviraz, two past lovers reunited, not for long, but for enough time to rekindle the connection between them—a connection that had bound their souls together.
"How are you here?" she asked, finally.
His smile was sad, then. "I cannot tell you. But this place is weakest between the dead and the living. I had to see you, when I sensed your presence."
Gods—he had lived, a spectre, for all these years.
"I'm so sorry, Wellan," she said, sobs beginning to rack her body once more. "It was my fault, I sailed knowing there would be a storm, I sacrificed Muhad—you paid the price, oh gods, Wellan, I'm so sorry."
He grabbed her shoulders, whispered, "I never blamed you for it, Zar. Not once."
"You did not deserve any of it."
"And you did? I have watched you dig a grave for yourself ever since you stepped onto that ship toward Orantes. You could have lived, Zar."
You could have lived. You could have lived.
You could have lived.
Avriel had said the exact same words to her, not long ago. She could have lived, instead of becoming a husk of who she had been. Dazaara felt old, older than the world, older than the waters breathing beneath her. She could have lived, instead of offering herself to a fate worse than death—worse even, now that she could have returned to Wellan after her demise. She blinked, recalled the warlock's quiet voice that day, his ancient gaze and the flicker of pain that had burned within it.
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The Shade of These Dark WatersFantasy
WATTY'S 2018 SHORTLIST. Pirate captain Dazaara Aviraz holds an intricate relationship with water. Exiled from her homeland, she longs to return home, to a father who taught her everything she knows. So, when an influential buyer offers to lift her...